Big game feeding operations minimal

BOISE, Idaho (KIFI/KIDK) - The Idaho Fish and Game Department says there has been no need for large-scale, emergency winter feeding in eastern Idaho, despite near-record snowfall in the high country.

The Natural Resource Conservation Service reports snowpack ranges from 91 to 153% of average across the state, with the majority of river drainages between 110 and 130%.

But, wildlife managers said animals are faring well. They are optimistic they will not need to declare winter feeding emergencies anywhere this winter.

"We're in March," said Jon Rachael, the Fish and Game's state wildlife manager. "People should be aware that it is pretty late in the winter right now, and it's not the same as it would've been if we had this snow in December and throughout the winter – like we did in 2016-17."

There are three emergency operations underway. One is in the Upper Snake Region. About 50 elk have perched in an area east of Highway 20 near Sugar City. Feeding was initiated for safety reasons and because the herd was close to cattle operations in the area.

Near Bancroft, Fish and Game is using a bait line in an effort to lure about 120 elk away from a landowner's property and livestock.

Another feeding operation has been established in the Magic Valley area, designed to reduce elk conflicts in Sun Valley and Ketchum. Additional feeding sites are being opened on the southern end of Blaine County to reduce conflicts with agriculture and homes.

"It is important for people to know that these feeding operations have nothing to do with nutrition," Rachael said. "These are entirely to do with keeping elk out of spots that will get them into trouble."

Winter feeding advisory committees have been formed in each region of the state, except the Panhandle. They monitor weather conditions and keep an eye on conditions that determine an animal's ability to forage for food.

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